Burnout Is Prevalent Among Medical Oncologists

Summary and Comment |
February 6, 2014

Burnout Is Prevalent Among Medical Oncologists

  1. Henry Mark Kuerer, MD, PhD, FACS

Nearly 45% reported emotional exhaustion or depersonalization.

  1. Henry Mark Kuerer, MD, PhD, FACS

Burnout among healthcare providers is known to have severe personal consequences and to adversely affect patient care. To identify characteristics associated with burnout in oncology, investigators used standardized survey instruments to conduct a cross-sectional study of 3000 U.S. medical oncologists in the American Society of Clinical Oncology membership file. The survey sample was evenly distributed by career stage and sex.

The response rate was 49.7%. At least one symptom of burnout (emotional exhaustion or depersonalization) was reported in 44.7% of respondents. Multivariate analysis showed that younger age and number of hours worked per week (average, 57.6) were independent risk factors for burnout. Most oncologists were satisfied with their choice of career (82.5%) and specialty (80.4%), but satisfaction with career was significantly lower among oncologists in private versus academic practice (P<0.006). Among oncologists in academic practice, focus on only one type of cancer was associated with a 320% increased risk for burnout.


Burnout among U.S. physicians is alarmingly high and is intensified in medical oncologists, as they work longer hours than many other physicians, often under emotionally draining circumstances. Moreover, there is concern that burnout among oncologists will increase, given the demands for increasing productivity. The practice of medical oncology provides high career satisfaction, but the hardest workers are at the highest risk for burnout, for adverse effects on their personal well-being, and for leaving their specialties. The societal costs of this situation may be enormous, and systematic changes are needed. Practitioners need to recognize the problem, develop skills in balancing their personal and work lives, and develop habits that nurture health and well-being and enable renewal.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Henry Mark Kuerer, MD, PhD, FACS at time of publication Consultant / Advisory board Bayer Pharma AG Speaker's bureau AstraZeneca Grant / research support Susan G. Komen Foundation Leadership positions in professional societies Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology (Chair, Education Committee)


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